Sunday, October 13, 2013

Product Review: Ciclotte - Wait but what?

Thanks to John Savage for finding this and suggesting I review it. I'm not really sure where to start or finish with this one. Sexual fetish object? Furniture? Exercise equipment?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

8 Things Competitive Runners and Triathletes Can Do To Get Their Sports Back.

The Seventh Sign of the apocalypse came recently when Competitor Group, organizers of the Rock n' Roll Marathons, pulled support of elite runners from their events. It signaled a mainstream acceptance of the end of distance running and triathlons as sports and their re-categorization into what you could term "endurance activities".

Photo Credit: Pilot Roads
The vast majority of races have become endurance activities. Combined with running is entertainment (music, dress-ups, mud), marketing props (compression socks, fuel belts) and in some cases obstacles (paint, mud, fairy lights). These endurance activities have brought thousands upon thousands to the healthy lifestyle of running and triathlon.

Since the Competitor Group decision I've read articles from those that remember and enjoyed competitive running and triathlon before it they became participation events. They try and blame themselves and brainstorm ways to rescue the sport by integrating better with the endurance activities. To them I say, let it go, the horse has bolted. It's time to leave endurance activities to those that enjoy them and reclaim running and triathlon as sports again as a separate entity.

Running and triathlon can be competitive sports again but first, let's remind ourselves exactly what that means.

Essentially competitions were races to determine who was the fastest. To do that you had to pit yourselves directly against one another. The aim of everyone competing was to get yourself over the finish line first or as close as possible to first as your ability allowed. The winners were celebrated and rewarded because that was what was important. No, scratch that, it was more than important, it was the whole fucking point.

If you are interested by competition, and would like triathlon and running reinstated as a sport, there are a number of actions you can take to change and support a competitive event culture.

1. Boycott races called 5K that aren't

Facebook Ad for Rebel Race
What is most irritating about the [Mud, Color, Rebel, Fire, Paint, Glow Stick] phenomenon is they continue to co-opt the "5K" bit which gives the impression the event is a running competition. These events have more to do with pornography than running.

2. Boycott races that raise money for charity or that forces you to raise money to enter.

Whoa! Confronting. But when you think about it charity and competition really have nothing in common. The connection is purely arbitrary.

The lines used to be clearly drawn between fundraiser and athletic event. Runs to raise money were called "Fun Runs" and were clearly separated from normal running events. Similar to the way  "Swim-a-thons" are different to a regular competitive swim meet. You knew what you were getting into before you signed up. Now, it's almost impossible to enter an endurance event that is not connected to a charity. It's also becoming increasing common for you to be discriminated against entering unless you are raising money by having special slots reserved for charity entrants.

3. Boycott races with an Expo

Most endurance products don't work so trying to tie a sprawling marketing expo of endurance junk to any competitive event is a distraction. Check my product reviews for more on that. I'm not against sponsors but it doesn't need to be a never ending proliferation of crap that's being marketed to those involved in endurance activities.

4. Support events that offer prize money or decent swag to the winners.

This is important to encourage the best athletes to compete. Many endurance activity organizers have made it very clear this is not a priority.

5. Boycott runs that use chip time over gun/clock time to determine the winners.

Awards based on chip timing reduces any potentially competitive situation into a meaningless personal time trial. Essential competitive elements such as tactical surging are nullified if you are consider that the athlete you are pacing off might actually be five seconds in front of you because of where they lined up on the starting line. More detail here.

6. Boycott triathlons that implement wave starts or rolling starts for no reason.

As well as preventing direct competition excessive use of staggered waves destroys the spectacle that is the mass start. There is no proof that swimmers are dying in triathlons because there are other swimmers around them. Absolutely none. Hundreds of competitors setting off together at the sound of the starters gun was one of the sports great thrills and experiences. There are exceptions for short races if the bike course would truly become too congested and cause drafting but this should not be an issue for long distance races. A wave of 50 people is ridiculous.

7. Boycott any race that offers a medal to everyone.

The New York Times article Losing Is Good For You was written about kids sports but it applies equally to endurance activities. It boils down to fact that there's no motivation to perform if everyone wins.

8. Join a club

Contributing to the strength of clubs can add an extra layer of competition to an event through team competitions. Of course there are events that try and kill even this layer of competition by offering participation points and points for arbitrary things like volunteering. A strong club can also hold their own events which are more likely to be competitive in nature.

It will be a long road back but following these 8 suggestions may encourage some race directors to put on triathlon and running competitions again. Any other suggestions?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Piedmont 5K Results - Race Report from Winner John Savage

By John Savage's blog.

For the run, I knew that my preparation would be pretty solid. After racing at nationals, and my disappointing run, I made a commitment to myself to run every day for 100 days. Some days it is as little as a mile, but I have been averaging roughly 3.5 miles/run. I have also been doing roughly one track workout a week to help with my speed. I am about halfway through my 100 day commitment, and my legs have been feeling pretty solid, so I went into the race to come away faster than last year.

I got to the race, and with the race being put on by the school district, many of my current and former students were there. A few of my water polo players were there, and a few of the people I train with at the track workouts were there, so I knew that there would be some competition. 

I did my usually warm-up, and made my way to the start line. As this is a community race, a bunch of the younger kids like to line up at the start, so the first three or four rows of racers are all kids under 14. While this is adorable, it is also a little dangerous. They sprint the first 25-50 yards, and then slow down. Behind them are another ~400 racers who are running who are now effectively playing dodge the kid to avoid running them over.

I lined up about 4 rows deep with some of the people that I do the track workouts with, and we laughed at the little kids in front of us. At the start, as predicted, the little kids took off. Then one tripped. Then two more tripped. Within the first 100 yards, we had the potential for a bunch of people to get hurt. I carefully picked my way around the kids, and one of my track friends (Steve) went with me.

Through the first mile, I was running side by with a guy I didn't know (henceforth, Nemo), and Steve was behind us by a few steps. The first mile was all flat or downhill, and it ticked off quickly in just under 5:30. I was noticing that Nemo was pulling ahead a little on the flats, but with my superior mass (I weighed more than him by a bit), I was able to use my momentum to keep pace on the downhill.

Then came the first hill. Hills are one thing that I get to run regularly around here, so I pushed the tempo up the hill, and Nemo and Steve fell behind by about ten seconds. The hill was pretty short, and followed by a short flat section, and I was quickly caught again. I knew that the course was hilly, and assuming that I could push the later hills, the course would play into my favor.

Here's the course. Downhill, then uphill, then downhill...and you get the point.

The next hill came quickly, and it was a long one. It goes from the middle of Piedmont to almost the top. I kept my rhythm pretty steady until about halfway up, and then put the pace down a little. The breathing and footsteps that had been right on my shoulder faded away, and I was able to put some time between the two trailing runners.

At the top of the hill, I let my legs go beneath me on the downhill. I wasn't hurting after the hill, but I knew that there was a brief climb at the end, so I would need to save something for that if I was caught. I started making mental notes as I passed spectators and volunteers in the timing of the cheers for Nemo and Steve to try and judge how far behind me they were. In the past I would have looked, but I am trying to get away from that and run with confidence, rather than fear of getting caught, so I kept my eyes forward and my ears back.

I noticed that the gap was getting smaller, but I knew that I had one more hill at the end. I slowed my tempo just a bit to save my legs, and at the base of the hill, I could hear one set of footsteps behind me by a few strides. This is when I threw down what I had left.

The gap slowly got bigger, and at the top of the hill, I took a quick look behind me and saw that I had about 8 seconds on Nemo. Steve wasn't in sight. I pushed through the end, and finished in 17:57, more than a minute faster than my result from last year.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Myothon Amino Acid Pseudoscience Vs. Eggs

I received an email from Vitality Sciences "because you are one of the top triathlete coaches in California". Way to get my attention! Anyways, they are selling some amino acid supplement crap and for fun I told them to send me a sample and they did. I was excited because no-one ever sends me samples because usually they read my product reviews first. Here I was thinking they were all clever from their very astute opening statement.

So the pill (although nothing can be confirmed by the FDA because presumably they have better things to do) contains essential amino acids (EEAs). The funny thing is it only lists 8 of the 9 considered essential. Essential just means you have to get them from food and the body doesn't produce them. Poor old Histidine got the boot for some reason.

Lots of things contain all the EEAs eggs, meat etc. etc. and even if you're vegetarian and eat a variety of foods you'll probably hit them all.

They make a big deal about them absorbing rapidly (into what I'm not sure?). They demonstrate this using this wonderful graph that is neither to scale nor like any graph I've seen before.
Amazing Upsidedown L-graph

Anyways, I'm comfortable with my protein being broken down and absorbed in a way that's been developed by my body over thousands years in a process called evolution. My athletes lives are stressful enough without their amino acid absorption processes being sped up. So I threw the $45 container of pills down the toilet in support of Histidine, the EEA that Myothon rejected, and thought about how much better the three eggs I had this morning tasted than those nasty pills smelled.

Oh, if you think I'm just being mean here's a video of the hoaxsters that should convince you. I was LOLing.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Athlete Results: Rev3 Cedar Point Ironman, Whiskeytown Lake OWS, Ventura Marathon.

Todd Zimmerman completed his first Ironman in the stellar time of 13:58 at the Rev3 event in Sandusky, Ohio on the weekend to celebrate his 50th birthday.

Preparing with me since the beginning of the year he was incredibly consistent with his workouts. He was rewarded with a very steady, well paced race especially the run where he used a 4:1 run:walk ratio which we'd practiced during the year and ended up being effective. Results of the race here.
Liz (left) with winning mugs trophies.

Liz Stampley raced the Whiskeytown Lake Open Water Swim in Redding, CA both the 1 mile and 2 mile events winning her age group in both.

Laura with bodyguards at Ventura Marathon
Laura Reyes Durazo smashed out a PR at the Ventura Marathon but heartbreakingly missed her goal of a Boston Qualifying time clocking a 3:42:56 (results). Suffering a cold on the weekend of the run she is determined to have another crack soon to reach her ultimate goal of Boston.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Diana Nyad, The Gulf Stream and the Olympic Swimming Marathon 10K Champion

Below is a graph of the speed of Diana Nyad during her 53 hour, 103 mile swim from Cuba to Florida.

The red line is the average speed of the 2012 Olympic 10K Open Water Swimming Gold Medallist. Her name, because I'm sure you've never heard of her, is Eva Risztov. She is from Hungary.


Here is a photo of 27-year old Olympic Champion, Eva...

Here is a photo of 64-year old Diana Nyad...

Both look amazing, don't they?

From the graph above, Diana, after her first 27 hours of swimming, swam for a period of about 15 hours at or better than Eva's average speed (which she only managed to sustain for 2 hours).

Here is a video of Eva and her Olympic friends swimming at 5km/hour.

Here is a video of Diana during a period she was swimming at a speed of 6km/hour.

There are two possible explanations:
1. Diana cheated.
2. The Gulf Stream is awesome.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Diana Nyad's magical mid-swim acceleration.

UPDATE: 09/07/13 8:24pm - Someone from Diana Nyad's team just provided the timestamped version of the 2 GPS units on the boat.
This more or less confirms the graph below.

The below was posted by user "malinaka" at Fascinating stuff...

Member 20 Likes

This time I got my Downton Abbey out of the way first. Then dug in to Diana's course.

If you aren't familiar with the Firebug extension for Firefox, you'll love it. It lets you see the code for pieces of web pages, and makes tracing javascript dependents much easier. It was through this that I came across the raw data from DN's home page tracking map. (

After some time spent formatting the data, moving it from text file to .csv to .kml, I was able to plot it in Google Earth and verify that currentswim is the data the Xtreme Dream team presents as her actual course. (See Figure 1).

Fig 1: KML plot of DN's map data next to the guesstimate I proposed earlier this week.

Knowing that this is in fact the right data, I dug into the 471 coordinates it provided.
Given the large number of points, I'm assuming this was automatically collected and therefore should be at equal time intervals. 471 points, 53 hours, 6.75 minutes per point. After calculating the local distance per degree in each direction, I could work out how far the tracker moved per time interval, and then graphed that (Figure 2). To account for those unusual readings we all get when using a GPS, I've smoothed it to a 6-interval average (about 40 minutes?) and that shows up in dark blue.

Fig 2: Plot of data from 0.8 km/pt correlates with roughly 7.1km/hr

So reading this graph, I'm asked to believe that Diana swam 27 hours at her normal pace, picked up some speed the first morning as the Gulf Stream moved in her favor (that's what her diary says), and then BAM! nearly triples her speed as she begins complaining about lung discomfort. She holds an amazing pace for the next seven hours, through the second night's squall with shark divers flippering their fastest to keep up with this rocketing swimmer until dawn, and then...we're back to a nice normal pace as the sun rises on her final day.

So what about currents? Did she get a current assist to the tune of 3mph? Did she manage to swim for seven hours at a pace thrice what I hold on a killer two hour sprint-distance pool set? So far, no one has found anything convincing to say she did. So far, all anyone has found is something saying she got pushed east a bunch (See Figure 3), which would not give her anywhere near this advantage.

Fig 3: Screen shot of currents during her swim. They head due east.

When I came up with this last night, I was skeptical. I emailed the data (excel sheet included) to R and E (both on this forum, feel free to give a wave hello if you'd like), asking them to check glaring errors and offer their informed input. I'm glad to send to the same sheet I used to do my calculations, but the beauty of all this is: the data came directly from the Diana Nyad team via their website. You can go straight there if you want and look at it. Then come back here and let us know if you've got a different opinion.

My mind is made up, but I'm still having trouble coming to terms with it. However, in the absence of ANY other data to back up Diana's claim, well...what else can I think?